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In a twist of tale, Xi praises Jack Ma

Chinese President Xi Jinping

After months of bitterness and aggression over Alibaba’s billionaire co-founder Jack Ma, Chinese president Xi Jinping has suddenly showered praises on the business tycoon.

Xi praised Alibaba Group Holding along with Pinduoduo and Meituan for helping in poverty alleviation as the government embarks on celebrations to mark “complete victory” in being able to eradicate absolute poverty.

The South China Morning Post reported that Xi presented awards to 1,501 organisations – mostly local government organs, schools and enterprises – and 1,981 individuals for their contributions to the effort.

Ma has been missing in action for the last few months. Not just that. Just a few weeks ago, the Shanghai Securities News, in an article listed the names of eminent businessmen in the country but Ma found no mention.

Ma, once the country’s poster boy was also a vociferous critic of the Chinese government. He had come under the glare of the authorities. Subsequently, Ant Group, an affiliate company of the Alibaba Group was barred from launching its initial public offering (IPO) — barely two days before it was slated to hit the market. While he has appeared twice since the last few months, Xi’s sudden acknowledgment of Ma’s contribution has led to many believing that the government could be looking at a reconciliation.

A few days earlier, the state media too acknowledged Alibaba for its contribution by helping the country’s farmers use its online platform to sell agriculture items worth $155 billion.

The sudden shift in the stance could also be to send a message to the Chinese private sector, which is critical in employment generation.

According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), private firms in China produce about two-thirds of China’s output and the disproportionate losses of the private sector were among the biggest causes of China’s historic GDP contraction of 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020.

“It is almost certain that unequal access to credit in the private sector, which slowed production and thus weakened revenue growth and private investment, was among the most important factors at play,” the study noted.